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Georgios Karaiskakis
Georgios Karaiskakis.
Nickname Karaiskos
Place of birth Mavromati, Karditsa
Place of death Faliro, Piraeus
Allegiance Greece
Years of service 1796 - 1827
Rank General
Battles/wars Greek War of Independence

Georgios Karaiskakis (Greek: Γεώργιος Καραϊσκάκης) (January 23, 1780 or January 23, 1782 - April 23, 1827) was a famous Greek klepht, armatolos, military commander, and a hero of the Greek War of Independence.


Early life

Karaiskakis was born in a monastery near the village of Mavrommati (Greek: Μαυρομμάτι), in the Agrafa mountains (located in what is now the Karditsa Prefecture, Thessaly). His father was the armatolos of the Valtos district, Dimitris Iskos or Karaiskos, his mother Zoe Dimiski, a local nun and cousin of Gogos Bakolas, captain of the armatoliki of Radovitsi.

Known as “The Nun’s Son” and “Gypsy” (because of his dark complexion), at a very early age he became a klepht in the service of Katsantonis, a famous local Agrafiote brigand captain. He excelled as a klepht - agile, cunning, brave and reckless - and rose quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming a protopalikaro, or lieutenant.

At the age of fifteen he was captured by the troops of Ali Pasha and imprisoned at Ioannina. Ali Pasha, impressed by Karaiskakis’s courage and intelligence, and sensing his worth as a fighter, released him from prison and put him in the care of his personal bodyguards. He served as a bodyguard to Ali Pasha for a few years before losing favour with the Ottoman warlord and fleeing into the mountains to continue life as a klepht.

Independence fighter

"The camp of Georgios Karaiskakis" by Theodoros Vryzakis (1855).

During the early stages of the war, Karaiskakis served in the militia in the Morea (Peloponnese), where he participated in the intrigues that divided the Greek leadership. Nonetheless, he recognized the necessity of providing Greece with a stable government and was a supporter of Ioannis Kapodistrias who would later become Greece's first head of state.

Karaiskakis's reputation grew during the middle and latter stages of the war. He helped to lift the first siege of Messolonghi in 1823, and did his best to save the town from its second siege in 1826.

That same year, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Greek patriotic forces in Rumeli, achieving a mixed response: while failing to cooperate effectively with other leaders of the independence movement or with the foreign sympathizers fighting alongside the Greeks, he gained some military successes against the Ottomans.

His most famous victory was at Arachova (Greek: Αράχωβα), where his army crushed a force of Turkish and Albanian troops under Mustafa Bey and Kehagia Bey. Victories such as the one at Arachova were especially welcome amid the disasters that were occurring elsewhere.

In 1827, Karaiskakis participated in the failed attempt to raise the siege of Athens, and attempted to prevent the massacre of the Turkish garrison stationed in the fort of Saint Spyridon.

He was killed in action on his Greek name day, 23 April 1827, after being fatally wounded by a rifle shell in battle. Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliro, Piraeus is named after him as he was mortally wounded in the area. According to Karaiskakis's expressed desire to be buried on the island of Salamis when he died, he was buried at the church of Saint Dimitrios on Salamis .


Dionysis Savvopoulos has written both music and lyrics to the popular Greek song Ode to Georgios Karaiskakis (Greek: Ωδή στο Γεώργιο Καραϊσκάκη).


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